31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: Mal. 1:14b–2:2b,8–10

A great King am I, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. And now, O priests, this commandment is for you: If you do not listen, if you do not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts, I will send a curse upon you and of your blessing I will make a curse. You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction; you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts. I, therefore, have made you contemptible and base before all the people, since you do not keep my ways, but show partiality in your decisions. Have we not all the one father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?

Second reading: 1 Th. 2:7b–9,13

Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

Gospel: Mt. 23:1–12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

In other words

by Fr. Glenn Paul Gomez, SVD (Christ the King Mission Seminary, Quezon City)

One of the many things that COVID-19 taught us is to go back to the basic—return to the essential things to survive. Here are some trivia: Humans can survive three minutes without breathable air, three days without drinkable water, and three weeks without food. 

Those who were infected by COVID and recovered lost their appetite for externals or the non-essential aspects of life. They became simple, humble, and more spiritual.

In today’s Gospel, the scribes and the Pharisees hanker for externals and attention: “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’”

How many of us remain shallow like the scribes and Pharisees? Persons with no intellectual and spiritual depth will stay insecure throughout their lives.

Thank God, even before the pandemic happened, some worked neither for themselves nor for their families but for the less fortunate and committed themselves to the betterment of humanity. One of them is Charles Francis “Chuck” Feeney, a co-founder of Duty-Free Shoppers Group. Throughout his life, Chuck has given more than USD 8 billion. In 2020, he closed down his foundation after it accomplished its mission of giving away all of his wealth while he was still living.

This might sound crazy for most of us, but Charles Francis put into action the paradoxes of life in today’s Gospel: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

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